T Nation

Martial Arts are BS


Penn and Teller destroy all of the bullshit that pisses me off about martial arts. I dug it. Plus it's got my boy Marc Macyoung in it, an added bonus.


When he shot the guy with the Indiana Jones style shot I laughed my ass off. And ya its true most Martial Arts teach you just enough to get into a fight you dont really wanna be in.


haha i laughed with the indiana jones shot as well...dymdez should watch this and take note as well...just pack heat haha :wink:


Good post, Irish. Love the show.

edit: One thing that bothered me - even though I haven't finished watching it all - is when the sensei is hitting his student.
That's basically meant to toughen you up and is pretty legit. Iron body or whatever. Works the same way as the makiwari,
They took it out of context.


Thanks for posting that, I certainly got a laugh.

Of course it makes me think that it's a shame that martial arts have been reduced to a level that (rightfully) warrants scepticism and ridicule.
Of course this show is only a light-hearted look at things, and also serves to remind us not to take ourselves too seriously.

I'm glad that they included Marc Mcyoung as a voice of reason, hopefully people who watched the show will do some research on his work.
I certainly try not to delude myself as far as self defence goes. I use to practice taekwondo, and was fed a lot of bullshit. I see much more clearly the realities now.

These days, as I practice my new "art", I certainly feel fitter and stronger, more focused, driven, and confident. I feel "tougher", too, but not only in a physical way, and actual "fighting" or self defence are generally the last things on my mind.


Absolutely they did. My sensei used to do that shit as well.

But my sensei also did the, "Come in on Saturday and mop up for me?" bullshit as well, and the "We're redoing the dojo, do you want to do all the work for me?"


"Sensei mike asked me one weekend, 'hey, you know Im not going to be in, can you come and just mop the floors?' I live an hour away. I'll do that."



My shihan (higher than sensei) pays all the instructors who teach.
If the place needs mopping or cleaning, he does it himself.
This video seemed more targeted towards McDojos than legit martial art dojos.

Oh well. Was a good ep anyway. That Chi woman was nuts though. Kinda painful to watch and even scarier that some people legimitely believe in that.
I once found a small website that had some pretty good info on training. I emailed the ower and we spoke back and forth.
He brought up chi and mentioned how his was really powerful.
Apparently one day he was practicing punching, in a pool at some hotel or something. There were people in the pool.
He told me his wife was screaming at the other people, saying how his chi could kill them if they didn't get out.
Since they wouldn't get out, he stopped doing his punches, afraid he might kill them.


My introduction to Martial Arts was through Tai Chi. The guy I learned from never ever mentioned that you could develop some kind of mystical force. He mentioned that you could use chi to help control your body or focus harder but he wasnt one of those you can move the room with a punch kind of guys.

Serious Tai Chi is great for controlling the mind and learning balance but the problem is people saw a buck to be made and inserted all this mystical shit with it.


I'm glad there is no McDojoism in BJJ for the most part. If there is, I havent been to a school like that. And I really liked the Muay Thai gyms I've trained at. I've mopped the floors there, not out of respect for the coaches, but to make sure I dont slip on my own sweat.




I like the Indiana Jones bit, however I loved the part where the man said "If you want to claim self-defense, know self-defense laws...".


Bullshit got this one right. Thanks for the vid.


Well, a lot of stuff is taken out of context, but it's got it's funny moments.

I used to teach for free out my old dojo, and we would clean. However, the main teacher didn't get paid either. The entire school was non-profit. Nobody was making any money there. Any profit the dojo made was used to buy equipment.

A friend of mine teaches Taichi and is actually pretty good at using it for hurting people. Some big football guy was picking on him at a bar so he threw him down, did an ankle lock and accidentally tore his tendons. But he doesn't believe in chi, it's all a bunch of garbage.


About chi -- I don't believe in any mystical forces, but here's an interesting phenomenon.

A friend of mine is very small -- weighs about 135. He likes to bet people that they can't bend his arm when he extends it. He has held his arm extended while four football players tried to bend it.

He taught me to do the same. The idea is, instead of holding your arm rigid, you imagine reaching forward -- but don't move. He had a can of coke in front of me for visual effect while he held my arm down. I "reached" for the can; he tried to bend my elbow; he couldn't. I didn't feel like I was making any effort at all.

It was such an odd phenomenon that he got himself hooked up to an MRI one time. They found that the two kinds of "stiffness" were two different kinds of muscle activation. If you hold your arm stiff, as if in resistance to a force, you stimulate lots of muscle fibers, intermittently. If you "reach" you stimulate only a few fibers, but constantly, firing as fast as you can. And apparently it gives you more static strength for less effort.

Anyhow that suggests that some of the "mystical" stuff in martial arts may be based on genuine neurophysiological hacks. I'm sure there's nonsense along with it too, but it doesn't seem impossible that you can do things beyond what you'd expect to be your strength by optimizing the neurological stuff.


My take on Penn and Teller is that for the most part they are accurate. And, I have 20 plus years in traditional uechi ryu karate. Uechi and a number of schools believe chi is bs. Hard work and thousands of reps on basics are what work, there is nothing mystical about hard work. I do think that the flippant attitude toward the teacher hitting the student is unfair. This is similar to a uechi practice called kotikitae, or body conditioning. Some call this "Iron Shirt" training. The premise is that you must be able to take a hit if you are going to fight. Would they be laughing at a boxer that is being hit in the gut with a medicine ball? Would they laugh at shadowboxing? I don't think so. As one of Mike Tyson's managers once said, "Everyone has a plan until they get hit."

Having said all that, I do feel that karate as a whole has screwed itself with the general public as a watered down shell of what it was meant to be. Kids classes and 12 year old black belts have ruined that, along with sport karate which mimics true self defense and fighting.Karate has become similar to Little League, something kids do from ages 5-12 before they can do contact sports.In the uechi system one cannot test for a blackbelt until age 18 regardless of how long they have studied.

True karate training is tedious and often pretty brutal. This is why good systems don't fare so well as most do not have the patience for real training and many like to believe that there is some quick fix, chi, ki or whatever that's going to save their ass in a self defense situation. It don't exist. I have a 5th degree black belt and crosstrain with people of other styles at times. One of my better experiences is training with my 21 year old son who has a background in muay tai and BJJ. I am 56 and I can tell you that all the "chi" in the world ain't gonna stop a good double leg take down. Karate, when trained properly, is a legit way to defend yourself, stay active and healthy, and supplement a well rounded training regimen. It is meant to be a lifetime study and most, especially Americans have turned it into a Tai Bo, P90X joke. Too bad as the true value of karate as a way of life got lost along the way.


Karate and most Martial Arts in this country got screwed by the Karate Kid. After that movie the McDojo scene exploded with parents wanting their kids to learning to defend themselves but never ever getting hit or being in live sparing. It just doesnt work that way but it doesnt stop BS instructors from selling belts and belt tests off like it was nothing.


Great observation, agree 100%.


-Spar and roll a lot. When I say spar, I mean with gloves and a headgear on where you actually get hit.

-Condition yourself to the point where you are an anaerobic machine.

-Know how to separate real world MA from more "artistic/cultural" pursuits. If you need help doing this, MMA should be your guide.

-Hit things(heavy bags, pads).

-You should spend a lot of time training wrestling, Judo or aggressive, top-game BJJ(there is a difference).

-Find a Filipino MA guy and learn something about knives.

-Learn to shoot and carry a gun if you can. If not, keep one(or many) in your home. Learn some CQB tactics too...different than just learning to shoot.

I think that covers it...


Great post Irish..

I was familiar with how bullshit Tai Chi is.

Thought this was funny

"The probability of being injured while taking martial arts is... 100%."

"The chances of being injured in a self defense martial arts class is 220 times greater than being injured in a crime your defending yourself against."

"If you're willing to use deadly force on another human being, use a fucking gun"